In December, Unilever pled guilty to two counts of violating the Clean Water Act, for an incident on December 5, 2008 in which it illegally discharged thousands of gallons of wastewater from its former Clinton, CT, manufacturing facility.
The company said the incident involved two non-managerial wastewater operators who bypassed portions of the facility’s wastewater treatment system. While Unilever voluntarily reported the bypass, it did not notify the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection within two hours of becoming aware of the bypass, as required by the facility’s discharge permit.
As part of its restitution, Unilever agreed to pay a $1 million fine and contribute $3.5 million to state and local environmental programs — including $1 million to construct a fishway at the Chapman Mill Pond in Clinton and for other environmental projects in the lower Hammonasset River watershed — and pledged to institute a new environmental compliance program at its US manufacturing facilities.
Unilever also agreed to periodic, third-party environmental compliance inspections at all of its US manufacturing facilities, and to guarantee that all of its employees at these facilities who perform or manage work subject to environmental compliance requirements have received basic environmental compliance training within one year.
“We recognize and thank the EPA for their invaluable work in this investigation, and commend Unilever for redressing their violations by contributing $2.5 million to fund research, outreach and education projects related to the effects of rising sea levels, and $1 million to construct a fishway in Clinton and for other environmentally projects in the lower Hammonasset River watershed," Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, stated in a press release. "The company’s contributions will directly assist the state of Connecticut in its efforts to protect and preserve our environment.”
According to Greenpeace, the textile industry is one of the major contributors to industrial toxic water pollution. In its 2013 “Polluting Paradise” investigation, Greenpeace uncovered the dumping of industrial wastewater containing a cocktail of toxic and hazardous chemicals, and caustic water, into the Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia. The NGO linked Gap, Inc., parent company of Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy, to the pollution through its direct business relations with PT Gistex Group, the textile manufacturer that operates the polluting facility.
Greenpeace’s ongoing Detox campaign has so far elicited commitments from 20 fashion brands — most recently, Burberry and Primark — to eliminate discharge of all hazardous chemicals from their operations by 2020 to clean up waterways and eliminate exposure to these substances through our clothing.